Other than being the current home of the City of New York Parks & Recreation Department, The Arsenal, built in 1847, before Central Park existed, is also home to three beautiful roof gardens. All the planting is done in deep containers that are artfully arranged to provide greenery and color, yet leave room for decking and outdoor furniture where you can sit and enjoy this hidden away, peaceful spot just overlooking the Central Park Zoo.
If you continue to LOOK UP from these two roof gardens (one on either side of some Park & Rec offices), there is yet another elevation of roof where you can see a bit of greenery. Of course I had to explore! I discovered a back set of stairs, climbed up them, and found myself in a heavenly elevated vegetable garden. Artichokes, basil, tomatoes, eggplants – you name it, all growing on top of the Arsenal in Central Park. What a delightful surprise!
That’s not the only surprise in the roof gardens at the Arsenal. Look closely at the soil in the planters and you’ll see something completely different. Styrofoam! These gardens are demonstration gardens for Gaia Soil, a locally manufactured lightweight soil incorporating Styrofoam that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill. At the Arsenal, Gaia Soil is supporting vegetables, flowering shrubs, a variety of lush plants and even goodly sized trees. Lightweight soil reduces the load that the roof has to bear, but it still provides all the benefits of a green roof: It reduces storm water run-off and creates biodiversity. I saw birds, lots of bees and a few butterflies while up there. I’m sure there are plenty of eco-important critters living in the soil that I didn’t see as well. Plus this green roof creates an urban oasis for people to enjoy, with spectacular Central Park and City views in the most unlikely spot – atop a pre-Civil War fortress-style structure built to store munitions.
In our next blog installment we’ll leave the 1800s and zoom into the future to LOOK UP at gardens atop a Battery Park City high rise that is the cutting edge of urban eco living.